[Header Image: Hunter Schafer as Jules Vaughn and Zendaya as Rue Bennett | HBO]
Ever since it first aired, it seems like Euphoria has been all over every social media that I use. Pretty much everything I heard about it was positive and if anyone didn’t like it, it seemed to be because the show just wasn’t their thing and not because it was bad. While Euphoria did peak my interest almost instantly, unfortunately, due to time and a long list of other shows to watch, I had to put this one on the back burner until now. Finally sitting down to start it, I completely understand why it’s so loved and highly praised.
It only took ten, maybe fifteen, minutes for this first episode to completely hook me. By that point, I couldn’t tear my eyes away and I was wholly invested in knowing where the rest of this story was going to go. There’s just so much about episode one that draws you in. The introduction and primary focus on Rue (Zendaya) and Jules (Hunter Schafer) is perfectly balanced with getting us situated with the overall show as well as giving us a brief (but still important) insight to some of the characters we’ll be exploring throughout this first season (and in the future).
Let’s start with character, something that, even after only seeing one episode, is clearly important and well thought out in Euphoria. As I said before, this first episode focused primarily on Rue and Jules and I love the depth we got with them. It was the perfect amount. The cold opening tells us that while there is a focus on the pair of them, it is primarily about Rue for episode one. When exploring her life prior to the start of the show, we’re told the specifics and that simply adds to how the overall episode has a lot of depth but knows exactly how to get right to the point. No second of the pilot is wasted. Don’t get me wrong, based on this episode, Euphoria shows it knows how to take its time when it needs to and knows exactly how to do a slow reveal (like not showing us that Eric Dane’s character Cal is actually the father of Jacob Elordi’s character Nate). In fact, the pacing this episode was near perfect.
That pacing, and the details we learnt about her from the cold opening, give us plenty of time to get acquainted with Rue. From the offset we know that she’s a flawed character with a lot going on. At no point does the show try to hide this from us. Even when she gets out of rehab, it’s not long before we discover that she’s not actually clean and we see her going to buy drugs as well as faking a drug test. The fact that the show is so upfront with all the negatives actually makes it easier to become invested in Rue and her story.
The same goes for Jules. Again, the show jumps right to the point in establishing that she’s new to town as well as showing her lying about her age and having sex with an older man (Cal), and then later almost attacking Nate when he continuously harasses her. Everything we discover about her is told to us by Rue and really, Jules remains a bit of a mystery which actually fits in well with the whole ‘new girl’ part of her character without making it feel like that’s the only interesting thing about her. Similarly to Rue, we discover enough about Jules to become genuinely invested.
Beyond them, there are sleuth of other characters to meet but Fezco (Angus Cloud), Kat (Barbie Ferreira), Gia (Storm Reid), and Ashtray (Javon Walton) were the ones I took the most notice of. Right from the moment we met him, I was curious about Fezco and his interactions with the Rue only made me more so. He seems to genuinely care about her, even preferring for her to stop taking drugs (he even seems proud of her getting clean) instead buying more which is technically more business/money for him if she does make another purchase. Even so, Rue buying the drugs led to us meeting Ashtray which was a huge surprise to me because I hadn’t heard a single thing about him. Despite him and Fezco being brothers, they appear to be polar opposites in a lot of ways and I love how the meaner, more intense brother seems to be Ashtray while the softer, more heartfelt one is Fezco because it’s really not what you would expect. Even though we don’t really see them together I’m curious to watch their future interactions.
With Kat and Gia it was mostly a case of them standing out more to me than the other characters during this episode. The former being confident when she’s by herself (or with those super close to her) but at the same time clearly struggling with her confidence in any other situation was really great to watch and highly relatable. It was also nice to see her trying to explore herself a little more and venture into the realms of having sex (as well as engaging in other sexual activities) which no doubt will become more complex and followed further throughout the season. With Gia, it was impossible not to like her from the start. Her relationship with Rue is absolutely adorable and it’s clear the girls love each other so the sudden reveal that Gia was the one to find Rue after her overdose hit incredibly hard. It’s also another example of revealing things slowly and at the right time so it has an effective impact.
I’ll admit, the characters did carry this first episode but there was a plot there as well. While we do primarily focus on Rue after getting out of rehab, we also get Jules’ encounter with Cal which will most likely be a future conflict and something that carries throughout the season. Every other character has something happen to them that seems to be the opening for more to come in future episodes and it already feels like the show is threading them all together so that while there may be heavy focus on individuals, it’ll feel right when any of them come together in later in the season. I will say that I understand why Euphoria might not be everyone’s cup of tea, to start with it’s pretty explicit with its adult content but at the same time, it fits. It never felt like the episode was trying to shock (especially not just for the sake of doing) but instead is just opting to be fun and incredibly raw at the same time. It’s genuinely really intriguing to watch every second unfold.
And that’s even on a superficial level because the pilot is absolutely beautiful to look at. From the complimentary colour palettes to the bizarre but fantastic camera work, specifically that scene of Rue at the house party where she’s high and seemingly climbing/falling on the walls and ceiling (the picture above!). Just like the show’s pacing and structure, every piece of cinematography seems purposeful. Even just from one episode, it’s clear that Euphoria wants to tell a story and is determined to do so in a well planned manner but at the same time, isn’t afraid to have a bit of fun and do something unique (especially with its cinematography).
After just one episode, I can safely say that I get the hype for Euphoria and I’m genuinely interested to see how the rest of the season holds up. The fact that people have continued to love it and it got renewed for a second season gives me hope but we’ll have to see.